Friday, March 27, 2009

One Man's View of Inner Beauty

In my last blog post I talked about Wendy, Les Stroud's assistant, whom I have enjoyed getting to know in the course of our exchanges about her boss. Well, Wendy is an awesome person in her own right...and so, it seems, is her husband Brian.

Wendy mentioned to me that Brian recently published a book of poetry called In Between. I read a few samples, and was particularly struck by the one entitled "Beauty." I've often talked about the unfortunate inequity how attraction works for the two sexes. (Well, that's a nice way of putting it. In fact, I've whined about men's obsession with outward appearances.) So naturally I was tickled to encounter a poem by a man (a rugged, outdoorsy, Canadian man, no less) that showed a very thoughtful appreciation for a woman's mind and soul. Brian gave me permission to reprint it for you here:


Some men are drawn to the curve of a hip
Some drawn to the curve of a breast.
Some men are drawn to the length of a leg
Some to the color of hair.
But some are drawn by the mystery,
Of sensuality in intelligence.
Drawn into the realm of infinite thought,
Pulled into the mind of imagination.
Called to by the curve of a question,
Enticed by endless conversation.
Just as the alluring curves, colors, and smells,
Of the feminine body's mystique.
The soft touch of intelligence in sexuality
Can make the hardest man become weak.
For the colors fade and perfumes dissipate,
And the curves often tend to obscure.
The bond of two minds wrapped in loving embrace
Tends to slip so much less throughout time.
And the gentle kiss of paired mentality,
Lingers more often on the lips of the mind.

Lovely, huh? To read more samples of Brian's work, you can visit his MySpace page. The book is available from Amazon here.

Thanks, Brian!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thanks to Les Stroud for Being My Fan!

That thump you heard a couple hours ago was my head hitting the ceiling. Why was I floating way off the ground? I'll tell ya.

I was contacted a week ago by Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine in their search for romance authors with celebrity fans, for a feature in their July issue. I felt like there was some celebrity I could think of that I knew was my fan (oh, I'm sure there are hundreds of them I don't know about, chah, right), and I just couldn't let go of the question.

I was in the kitchen putting away dishes, just another part of my glamorous romance author lifestyle, when it came to me. Les Stroud! Long time followers of my blog know that Les and I have exchanged books and DVDs and such a few times in a little frenzy of mutual admiration...well, I definitely admire him anyway, which you can learn from my many Les posts. But while this is certainly my most significant celebrity connection (I trust I'm not offending any of my fellow Y-list celebs when I say that; c'mon, you guys are all my friends and I love you!), I wasn't sure I could say Les was a "fan."

So...I wrote up a little paragraph with our history and emailed it to Les's fabulous assistant Wendy (you see her name in the closing credits of "Survivorman"). And I waited hopefully for a reply. In the week that passed, Wendy had to get in touch with Les in the Bahamas where he is filming another shark show for the Discovery Channel. She ran my proposal by him, and he said, "Sure!"

[I'm of course picturing Les underwater in a shark cage, with deadly lemon sharks ramming the bars, as he is texting Wendy on his waterproof iPhone: s...u...r...e]

Wendy has borrowed my books from Les and she is definitely a fan. That means a lot to me too! And tonight I am Wendy's biggest fan! And grateful as always to that dear and wonderful guy, Les Stroud.

Now just cross your fingers that the magazine decides to include us! What fun that would be.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why Nice Girls Go for Bad Boys

A friend and fan of mine, let's call him Adam, emailed me in response to my last post about Ben Linus. Adam wondered, why the heck is it that women are so attracted to villains? He recounted a story of dating a woman with a history of abuse, and treating her kindly and well for a change, only to have her end up returning to her previous nasty boyfriend.

Adam is not alone, that's for sure. I know so many men who grew up believing the best way to woo a girl was to be nice to her, only to find out that like in so many areas of life, nice guys finish last with chicks. So they wonder, what is the deal with females? These ladies can't really be gluttons for punishment, can they?

My answer to that is, no, women are not after punishment when they fall for Bad Boys. On the contrary, they are out for rewards, in one or both of two key ways:

1. Bad Boys make up for our having to be so darn good. I've talked about this one a lot. Traditionally, girls are raised to be cooperative, empathetic, nurturant, willing to compromise and sacrifice their own needs. Having had to stifle self-interest, women are fascinated by males who live their lives selfishly and independently. Such men are everything we Good Girls are not: they break the rules, ignore convention, and do whatever they damn well please. In the great tradition of "opposites attract," these guys draw women like moths to flame. Just being around them is exciting, liberating, and arousing. Sure, there's a price to be paid--ill treatment--but to a point, it's an acceptable price.

2. There is nothing more satisfying than reforming a Bad Boy. I honestly think this is what's behind most of the truly "hard cases" of women hooked on cruel men. I haven't spent as much time discussing this one, so let's focus on it today.

There's a saying that goes, "Women marry men hoping to change them; men marry women hoping they won't change." Ever wonder why women so often have this agenda? Well, historically speaking, while men were busy with government, commerce, the professions, etc., women had to focus on homemaking. Therefore, if a woman was to feel fulfilled, and earn a sense of accomplishment, she had to do it by shaping the household. One key element of that was making improvements upon her husband.

Really, if you marry a nice guy, what challenge is there in that? It's already his nature--you can't take any credit for it. But if you adopt a Bad Boy, and by your love and effort and charms manage to reform him, that really proves something. It proves that this guy, who came to you all anti-social and dysfunctional, was transformed by his love for you. Could there be anything more flattering and self-affirming to a gender restricted largely to homemaking?

Nowadays it's easier for women to find fulfillment in arenas outside the home, but after thousands of years of behavior patterns, we are not going to change our propensities overnight.

Okay, now let's apply this principle to a couple of examples. In Example 1, you're Cinderella and the guy is Prince Charming. He's pretty much perfect when you meet him: brave, with a fine sense of duty, perfect manners, and the ability to ballroom dance to boot. Once you overcome the nasty people trying to keep the two of you apart, and achieve Happily Ever After, the story's over. And what have you accomplished? You tell yourself, "Hey, I won the heart of a nice guy"; but especially to the young and inexperienced, it seems like if you had faced more of a challenge you would feel even better about yourself.

Flip side: for Example 2, let's go back to Ben Linus. It's hard to be certain, but he seems like a lonely, f'ed up, megalomaniacal misfit. He's duplicitous, selfish, tricky and untrustworthy. Imagine then if you could be the woman who heals his emotional wounds, meets his unmet needs, and transforms him into a whole and healthy person. Now that's an accomplishment! And imagine how grateful Ben would be to you! You are truly his salvation, his whole world. You did what no one before you could do. You're amazing!

And that's how it works, Adam, my friend. When your girlfriend's nasty ex came after her again, she thought, "See, he needs me, he misses me, he can't live without me. I am changing him!" And of course she couldn't turn her back on him then, just when he was displaying evidence of this glorious transformation-by-love! Why should she stay with you, a nice, integrated, whole person, and take the easy road? There's a man out there who just can't make it without her!

Of course he was just acting that way for the moment, to get her back for sex, cleaning, cooking, a sympathetic ear, etc. Of course it all went bad again. But she was willing to risk it, just in case. And until everything fell through, she could once again glory in the feeling of being with a Bad Boy.

In a horrible way it makes sense, doesn't it?

So what's a nice guy like Adam to do? Hang in there and stay true to your nice self. Most women do wise up (there are three in my family who did, for example). Women are not actually stupid, nor are they masochists. Eventually they learn the lesson that the pain a Bad Boy causes more than offsets the pleasure he offers, and then they start looking for a man who will treat them well.

Which, by the way, is what ended up happening to my friend Adam. Because although Bad Boys may finish first in the sprints, life happens to be a marathon.

[About the illustration for today's post: This is a drawing I found of devil Crowley and angel Aziraphale, two characters from the book Good Omens. I find this depiction of a bad boy and a nice guy who are both attractive really fascinating. So do many artists, it would appear (just search Deviant Art for "Good Omens" and see). Anyway, this drawing was done by the fabulously talented

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bad Boys, Good Guys, and Ben Linus

My daughters and I recently discussed the experiences all three of us have now endured, regarding the transition from Bad Boys to Good Guys. I dare say we are in good company in that regard.

Women often dig guys that treat them mean. It's complicated. I've discussed the attraction of the Bad Boy archetype at some length, both here on the blog and in my other columns, so I won't go into his special charms again here.

But the thing is, many of us have our first significant relationship with a guy who is less than kind. Some of us never get past it, and repeat the mistake over and over. But a lot of us learn from the experience. We recognize that Bad Boys can be charming, and sexy, and exciting, but in the end are just not worth it. They may offer thrills, giddy emotions, and hot sex...but the trade-off for a Good Guy, who gives you support, respect, understanding, and nurturance, is totally worth it.

My daughters and are all currently in relationships of various stages, from second date to six months to 15 years of marriage, all with nice guys. None of them are the kind who walk into a bar and turn heads; but all of them are perfectly attractive and very sweet guys. Do we three still find ourselves attracted to Bad Boys? You bet. Would we be with one? Hell's no.

So...what about Benjamin Linus? Well, Lost fans, I was thinking about all the stuff reinterated above, and I realized something that may account for the irresistible power this character has over so many women. Paradoxically (and isn't the Island always good for another paradox?), Ben is both Bad Boy and Good Guy at once.

This has been true from his very first appearance on the show. Remember when he swore he was just another castaway, an innocent guy named Henry Gale? No matter how many reasons we had to think he was lying, he was really some sort of evil mastermind, there was always that chance he really was a nice man. This has remained his shtick ever since. Just when you think he truly is pursuing a higher goal, he really may be the savior of all our heroes, he pulls some nasty stunt like a mass murder.

But meanwhile, just when he's rubbed out his latest enemy in cold blood, we become convinced he did it for some higher reason: true love, maybe...or to save countless other lives. He can just seem so damn sincere. With Ben, somehow duplicity comes across as genius, outrageous gall seems like courage, lying seems like, well, impressive outsmarting. In his most recent outing, Ben murdered Major Good Guy John Locke with his bare hands...and yet, all the while I watched the act, I was saying to myself, "This has to be for a good reason. I mean, it has to be. Right?"

So, with Ben Linus we women get to have our cake and eat it too. We can feel all tingly when Ben fools everyone with his latest lie, and all fluttery when he orders people around. But in the next minute we can honestly entertain the belief that in the end, Ben could save everyone we love on this show. We can feel pathos when he gets brutally beat up yet again (how many times has it been now? Surely some devoted fan is keeping count). And in the next scene we can marvel at how it seems every string in the plot is pulled by Benjamin Linus the Master Puppeteer.

I'm not sure I can think of a better example in any fictional medium of a man being Hero and Villain virtually simultaneously. And I have to believe it is this complex hybrid of the two archetypes that keeps women fascinated by Ben.

There are a lot of plot lines up in the air on Lost, but for my money, the one I look most forward to seeing resolved in a couple more years is this: Is Ben Linus a Bad Boy or a Good Guy? I am so hoping for the latter, but in the meantime, it's his role as the former that keeps me glued to his scenes.

Funny how that works.

[Ben Linus fans, please see also my original Ben post: "Please Tell Me Why I Love Ben Linus"]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When Heroes Have Human Heartaches

My current celebrity obsession, Neil Gaiman, and my longest-term celebrity obsession, Guy Carbonneau, both suffered very unhappy losses over the past few days.

You may not know that for over a decade I have maintained the unofficial website of famed NHL player and coach Guy Carbonneau. Approaching 400 pages in size, it is a genuine online biography of a man who, to my mind, epitomizes the heroic sports figure. I don’t post to it much anymore, but try to keep it up to date at least.

So last night I had to update with the sad news that after nearly three seasons, Coach Carbonneau of the Montreal Canadiens had been fired.

Obviously I’m the last person who will say it was deserved. And you, my usual readership, are not the demographic to care for a debate over that issue. But I will mention that several weeks ago, Canadiens GM Bob Gainey was saying the hiring of Carbonneau was one of his wisest moves. And just last season, Guy contended for NHL Coach of the Year. I’ll shut up now.

And meanwhile, in even less happy news, as I type this Neil Gaiman is back home in England, preparing with his family for his father’s funeral. David Gaiman passed away suddenly a few days ago of a heart attack. As you may or may not know, Neil has for years been known for blogging about his personal doings (in a tasteful, humble, well-mannered way). How strange it was today to see his blog post and tweets, and watch his valiant attempts at staying in touch with fans while sorrow overcomes him. I was relieved when he informed his readers of a hiatus.

When you idolize a person, it’s easy for your psyche to project upon him whatever imaginative material is of use to you at the moment. When you are lonely, thoughts of him keep you company. When you are oppressed, you may envision him as a white knight, come to the rescue. When you are bored, you may seek him for adventure.

It’s interesting then, when the hard realities of life strike that celebrity, and you are reminded that he is just another human being like yourself. I have lost a job and I have lost a parent. So today what I feel for my two personal idols is compassion and empathy. I may often behave as if they are heroes out of fable, but today I am more than willing to consider them mere men.

And I am all the more grateful to be reminded that these mere men are the sort who deal gracefully, thoughtfully, and sensitively with misfortune. It is these sorts of people, who actually take seriously the fact that others look up to them, who are worthy of genuine (as well as fantasized) admiration.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Torn Between Two Lovers

Last night on “Lost,” the writers set up a very nice new love triangle. Sawyer, who fell for Kate but never established a relationship with her, has been pining during the three years of their separation (he’s on the Island, she’s back in civilization). Well, actually, he’s been simultaneously pining for Kate and falling in love with Island cohort Juliet. Imagine Sawyer’s predicament when, still flushed from Juliet’s latest embraces, he finds Kate & Co. have returned to the island.

The love triangle is a plot device that never grows old.

Usually the focus in this kind of story line is on the competition between the two individuals fighting for the love of the third. For example, in the past “Lost” had a storyline about Jack and Sawyer competing for Kate. There’s endless fun in that kind of plot line, as you root for your favorite to win out.

But on the flip side, it’s also fun to focus on the person who is in love with two people at once. I think this may be the female equivalent of a three-way, in fact. Rather than fantasizing about having sex with two men at once (not that we never do that, it’s just not like with men who constantly do that), we imagine having two men in love with us. It certainly wouldn’t suck to have that happen.

Interestingly, it’s also fun to imagine being in love with two people at the same time. Why is that? Never being short on theories about sex and romance, I am happy to explain. This situation makes for not one but two affairs that are illicit. When you’re with one guy, you’re wronging the other, and ditto. Remember that old 70s song by Mary MacGregor, “Torn Between Two Lovers”? There was a line in the chorus that went, “Lovin' both of you is breakin' all the rules.” And as we know, there’s nothing more fun than breaking all the rules.

Another factor in such a scenario is our sense that “true love is never wrong.” A person can honestly feel okay about cheating if it’s done out of true love. While we’re quoting old pop songs, “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” There’s enough justification that springs from the happiness we bring each party, that it makes the misery we inflict upon the other worthwhile.

I always reflect back on one of the coolest ongoing nocturnal fantasies I’ve ever had (it actually appears in my story “The Storytellers” in Soulful Sex: The Darker Side), which was this sort of triangle. I was simultaneously involved with the Emperor Caligula and a Roman centurion, agonizingly torn between the two. In both cases the men needed me desperately, which made me feel I simply had to stay with both at once.

The whole triangle thing is delightful on so many levels. It is, of course the heart of my more recent fantasy about Mister House and the Man in the Black Coat, which you’ll recall from my blog post about the insane complexity of my fantasies. I’ve actually picked up on that fantasy again recently. It’s just so fun watching the two men get jealous about each other. And I get to feel deliciously guilty when I’m with one and knowing I’m betraying the other. AND I get to be needed and adored by two guys at once.

Honestly, men just don’t know how to construct a proper three-way fantasy. Sex between three people is so lame by comparison to the complex, delectable thrills of being torn between two lovers.

And may I add that “Lost” (which is having the most enthralling season ever, IMHO) now has the pieces in place for an actual love square. Kate and Juliet have each had both Jack and Sawyer in love with them, so the potential here is stupendous. Throw into the mix Ben’s longstanding obsession with Juliet about love tangles, yikes!

I say, bring it on.

[Warning label for this post: The author does not in any way recommend or endorse the practice of love triangles in real life. Been there, done that, wish I hadn’t!]